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Interior Secretary: Bush's Best Bet

by Editors
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 20, 2006

(AP:Evan Vucci) President Bush announces Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, left, as the new Secretary of the Interior in the Oval Office on March 16 in Washington. With President Bush's selection of Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, the Northwest likely will find out if there is still any benefit in having an interior secretary from the region.

There used to be. Another former Idaho governor, Cecil Andrus, served well in that capacity under President Carter. Andrus joined the Cabinet with an understanding of the need to save Northwest public lands while working with everyone, including businesses.

We wish Kempthorne had more of Andrus' environmental ethic. Among many disappointments have been the Republican's opposition to protecting roadless areas in national forests, attempt to weaken the Endangered Species Act and, last week, his unwillingness to say whether he supports Bush proposals to sell many public lands.

Kempthorne brings the pragmatic experience of being governor and, earlier, mayor of Boise. Such service tends to polish ideological edges. Last year, he struck a major water-rights deal involving the Nez Perce tribe, ending a long fight. As a U.S. senator, Kempthorne dealt with many Northwest issues. Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico both praised his knowledge of issues that face Interior.

Kempthorne's Senate background almost guarantees his confirmation. That doesn't promise a good performance. But, with the possible exception of former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Kempthorne is probably as close to a decent a choice as this White House would consider.

Interior Secretary: Bush's Best Bet
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 20, 2006

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